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'Legalization' In Canada

Why I'm Not Celebrating

by Daniel Johnson


So, Cannabis is legal in Canada. I should be ecstatic. After all, as a long time legalization activist, director of NORML Saskatchewan from 2007-2013, and event organizer and internet rep for that organization since 1997, this is what I spent much of my adult life fighting for. The National Organization For The Reform Of Marijuana Laws came to my attention as a teenager, via death metal band Cannibal Corpse, who listed the organization's address in their liner notes.

That was in 1992, I didn't even smoke weed but my parents did, and they also grew it and sold it, and I grew up in fear of police and social workers as a result. When I wrote to NORML, their response said not to smoke it until I was 18, and oddly wnoufh I didn't. I wore a pot leaf necklace, handed out legalization pamphlets, put up posters for early attempts at pot rallies, and generally promoted cannabis within the frame-work of a movement that trained me as an activist. 

Locally, Regina's legalization scene was backed by Pat Baumer at Vintage Vinyl, a record store that staeted selling hemp products and disteibuting pro-legalization books. NORML Canada was run by Umberto Iorfida, Marc Emery got involved shortly before, mostly as part of his fight against censorship made famous by his criminal obscenity trial over selling 2Live Crew albums. 

That's rhe wierd part, I wasn't smoking or selling cannabis, but I was still doing something illegal because Canada's paraphenalia laws banned legalization literature. Iorfida was on trial, Marc Emery helped fundraise for his legal fees and I was a kid learning about the political system from some really cool people. 

Media outlets pretended the legalization movement didn't exist unless it was to ridicule, on the rare occasion they did a real interview with a legalization activist they would have a cop or other professional anti-legalization person dominate the story and the activist would get arrested almost immediately after.

But despite these conditions, polls showed majority support for legalization. We were up against an opponent that controlled media narrarives, promoted it's message in public schools and had millions in tax-payer funding for continuing propaganda campaigns, our cause was illegal to promote, but we still had majority public support. That was in the 90s, majority support means nothing in ournpolitical system because of something called 'civil society', a doctrine in which democracy must be protected from 'populism' by only allowing middle and upper caste professional interests to have a voice in public discussions. Since the professional caste, especially police, social workers, doctors, 'addictions specialists' etc. made much of their living from enforcing laws against cannabis, it didn't matter what the majority wanted.

That's why it took that long, and that's why it's being done in a way that guarantees it will do more harm than good, and will result in more arrests for cannabis offenses than before 'legalization'. 


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Daniel Johnson (Daniel Johnson)
Regina Sask
Member since Août 2013

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